Microsoft to revamp and rename Hotmail

Microsoft has announced it is revamping and renaming its free webmail service, which analysts say may be aimed at winning over users of Google's rival Gmail service

Microsoft has announced it is revamping and renaming its free webmail service, which analysts say may be aimed at winning over users of Google's rival Gmail service.

The revamped service, to be known as Outlook.com, will automatically sort messages and integrates the firm's Skype video chat.

Microsoft said the move will help tackle the problem of "cluttered" inboxes by sorting messages automatically into categories.

This will make it easier for users to distinguish between emails from contacts, newsletters, package delivery notices, social network posts and other categories set up by users.

Outlook.com accounts will also link to other services the user might have subscribed to.

"We are giving you the first email service that is connected to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, and soon Skype, to bring relevant context and communications to your email," the firm's Chris Jones said in an Outlook blog post.

"In the Outlook.com inbox, your personal email comes alive with photos of your friends, recent status updates and tweets that your friends have shared with you, and the ability to chat and video call – all powered by an always up-to-date contact list that is connected to your social networks," he wrote.

Jones also announced that Outlook.com will link up with Microsoft's Skydrive cloud storage, allowing users to send photos and other documents without the risk of going over their attachment size limit.

Microsoft said it had built a "brand new service from the ground up". 

But Gartner analyst Matt Cain told the BBC that the move is not a major leap forward.

"Outlook.com represents reverse-consumerisation – taking a ubiquitous business tool and recrafting it for the consumer market," he said.

Microsoft is offering the revamped webmail service in a "preview" mode and has not announced an official release date.

Existing Hotmail users can upgrade to the Outlook.com preview by clicking "upgrade" in the options menu of Hotmail. For non-Hotmail users, the preview is available on the Outlook.com site.


Video: Preview of Outlook.com


Photo courtesy of JCDecaux Innovate on Flickr

 

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